FAIRBANKS — Space scientist Alan Delamere gave a presentation last summer in which he recounted the history of difficult scientific missions to Mars and elsewhere that went “way beyond reasonable boundaries.”

What Delamere accomplished in Fairbanks on Saturday also went “way beyond reasonable boundaries,” though it had nothing to do with the innovative work he has done for decades in aerospace.

Delamere, who turns 78 in September, completed the 50-kilometer Sonot Kkaazoot ski race. We were happy to see him at the finish line.

I hesitate to call it grueling, but it was difficult, even for those many decades his junior.

The temperature was a few degrees on the plus side when the race began on fresh snow, which made for slow going from the Chena River downtown to the top of Birch Hill and back.

Before the race, Delamere said he is not sure how many more years he will be able to take on the 50K challenge. Perhaps in future years he will be satisfied with a 40K or 20K challenge.

I did manage to pass him about halfway through the race. I asked how he was doing.

“Slowly,” he said, “With feeling.”

He was chilled at the finish line downtown, after 6 hours and 23 minutes on the trail. His son, Peter Delamere, of Fairbanks, completed the course about three hours earlier. Jennifer Delamere and Sam Delamere skied as well.

After a dip in the family hot tub, Alan had regained his strength and attended the post-race banquet. He collected an award for winning his age group, a category in which he had no competition.

He was one of about 100 men and women who finished the 50K race. I was happy to be in that group, though I spent a lot more time in the great outdoors than most of the other skiers. As time goes on, I think that any year in which I am able to go that far is a good one, in terms of my enjoyment of skiing.

One of my peers, Robert Hannon, said after he  crossed the finish line that he enjoyed himself too, though he mentioned something about an excursion to the emergency room.

Even though the temperature was cold and the fresh snow slowed everyone down, he was also happy about the way things turned out.

I wanted to cross the finish line, while still believing that I had a good time in getting there. Plus, I wanted to end the race with the attitude that it would be great to try it again next year as a 60-year-old.

I had all sorts of fun and I haven’t promised never to do it again, so I accomplished my goals.

I am inspired by the efforts of Alan Delamere and others, but things happen to people my age, so I don’t know if I’ll be able to ski it again next year.

 I take comfort in knowing that if this the last time, I will remember it as a great way to spend a spring day.


GOOD GROOMING: I want to thank Susan Sugai and all of the other race volunteers, especially the crew that helped prepare the trail. Because it snowed late Friday and early Saturday, Tom Helmers went to Birch Hill at 1 a.m. to begin grooming the trails. He worked until 10 a.m. He didn’t have to do that, but he is dedicated.

Meanwhile, Russ Lizotte, Ken Coe and Andy Blossy started at 6:30 a.m. Saturday and did a perfect job grooming about six miles of the Chena River and part of Birch Hill.


TOP CHEF: Former Fairbanksan Brendan McGill has been named “Best New Chef” by Food and Wine Magazine for 2013.

McGill, who attended the Art Institute of Seattle, was recognized, “Because his cooking is the best possible version of a refined and well-traveled French grandmother, making as much by hand and using as many local ingredients as possible.”

About his earliest cooking memory, he said: “Growing up in Alaska, our annual trip to Chitina, where we fished the Copper River for chinook and sockeye salmon. We held a little fish camp to process the 50-plus fish we could come back with, and we filleted, smoked and canned our catch.”

McGill, the son of Mike and Sandy McGill, of Fairbanks, opened Hitchcock, a restaurant on Bainbridge Island outside of Seattle, three years ago. Before that he worked at Il Bistro, The Apartment Bistro & Martini Lounge, Harvest Vine and Cremant in Seattle.

Dermot Cole can be reached at cole@newsminer.com or 459-7530.